Film Review: A Beautiful Planet

Staggering IMAX look at Earth from the International Space Station will be a long-running hit in large-format theatres.
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The images in A Beautiful Planet are so incredible that its narration can feel like an afterthought. But this IMAX Entertainment production, made in cooperation with NASA, presents an impassioned and very persuasive message for advancing beyond fossil fuels.

Shot over two years and covering three space-station expeditions, A Beautiful Planet captures Earth in scenes of indescribable grandeur. A typhoon 300 miles wide fills the IMAX frame. Lightning dots a nighttime sky while aurora borealis glows on the horizon. The Caribbean positively shines under a full moon.

Director Toni Myers begins the movie by zooming into and through the Milky Way, singling out our sun, an ordinary star among millions. The enormity of the universe emphasizes how precarious our place on Earth is, how unusual the circumstances are to harbor life.

Close to two-thirds of the planet's surface is covered with water. The blues and greens of oceans and lakes shimmer under the lenses of the astronauts' cameras (digital, a first for an IMAX space movie). The nighttime views of shining cities, of North Korea's dark countryside, of oil wells in Texas and fishing boats in the seas off Thailand are breathtaking.

Astronauts like Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy show viewers what it's like to live on a space station for months at a time. Drinking espresso, cutting hair, taking a "shower" become complicated procedures. Even celebrating Christmas takes ingenuity.

Myers switches to Earth-bound footage that documents a shrinking glacier in Greenland in time-lapse photography. But imagery from the space station has a much stronger impact. Dramatic footage of the deforestation in Madagascar shows why the lemur population faces extinction. Plumes of smoke extend for miles across empty fields that used to be rainforest in Brazil.

Jennifer Lawrence, whose narration is emotional without being strident, keeps a positive outlook despite the environmental damage shown. The movie accepts climate change as a given, and insists that we move from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Cristoforetti suggests that we think of ourselves as crew members on a space ship instead of passengers, so that we can accept responsibility for protecting the planet. It's a message that should resonate with viewers of all ages.

IMAX keeps raising the bar for spectacular imagery, but A Beautiful Planet is more than just pretty pictures. Thoughtful and encouraging, it could change how viewers think about climate change.

Click here for cast and crew information.